Thursday, 16 March 2017

Fly Fishing - The end the coarse season & the start of the trout season!

With the coarse season finishing and the trout season set to begin, i set out with Mike France to catch some last minute grayling on the 13th of March.  But we would have a pit-stop enroute to catch some pike and that would be at the Old River.  It would be my first time here and was nice to finally see it all in person, the amount of work gone into it while still holding a natural look about it. Never was a fan of lakes where all the trees were cut down for pegs.  Though if i was honest, the blackness of the water made it seem a little stagnant, which you usually see in small ponds surrounded by trees.

Being after pike, on the fly of course,  Mike showed me something i hadn't seen before, his Martin Smith flies, Mike opted for the purple while i went natural and after moving on to the 4th peg, we worked ourselves along to fish every peg on the boathouse side. I was soon greeted by a nice 4-5lb pike cruising behind my fly, it followed it right up until the peg and then slunk away into the darkness. Moving on around we was about half way up when i heard an almighty splash! I thought Mike had fell in but i have him the benefit of the doubt and shouted if he had one. Running round to assist in the landing, may as well make it easy, i found Mike well and truly the victor of the pike which was lovely and plump for it's size.  After a quick trip to the dentist as i unhooked it, a nice picture to boot, it was off strongly back into it's murky depths. 

After entertaining no more pike i swapped to a tiger stripped pattern to help it stand out against the dark water. Mike had a few follows off a pike, a nice size i remember him saying, but to no avail and as we neared the last of the pegs my reactions let me down. I was slowly retrieving the fly across from the tree on the left when the fly looked like it grew wider then it disappeared, i was left looking into the eyes of a pike that had snuck up from below and wrapped it's mouth around the fly, perfectly blending in with the fly itself before it had slammed it's mouth shut. Now this had happened in a second and for my brain to register what had happened maybe half a second more and as i struck it popped open it's mouth and turned away. I had bloody missed it. After that we packed away and headed off the catch some ladies.

Upon arrival of the river we noticed that it was down, not at its summer lowest but relatively low and very very clear. A cold downstream wind had picked up at this point and being quite blustery it wasn't going to make conditions ideal. The first run we did was more sheltered and despite not being very long and the fact i set up on the wrong bloody reel so had to rechange, we managed 8 grayling between us, someone else had also just finished this stretch as we had got there quite late considering, so getting 8 in used water was a good stint.

Heading upstream we fished the holes around the shallows for some distance and despite the levels and conditions was still surprised not to have caught more. Mike hit a nice patch in some deep water with a complete opposite tactic to me, i was using 3 nymphs to hit the bottom and had a couple of Grayling but Mike was getting the bigger ones on a small size 20 nymph suspended off a klinkhammer.

The best of the grayling came quite late into our stretch which Mike had, a very healthy size Grayling for this particular water, they do get bigger but of late they have seemed few and far between.  In all i think the biggest surprise was the lack of fish in the deeper holes, the shallows were literally to shallow to hold fish that would be feeding and the deep holes had food lanes running straight into them but on both tactics some of the wouldn't give up their secrets. In total we hit 17 Grayling and 3 small trout.

After a bout of the sick bug and a day in bed i managed to get out on the 16th March to target them trout that have had several months to hide.  I opted to go far upstream on the Irwell catchment and after having a big trout sneak up behind me get spooked i went a whole 2 1/2 hours of nothing. Not a take not a nibble just snags and rerigs. I lost 1 fly on a snag and the rerigs were trying to figure out what i was doing wrong if anything.  It was only till i got the the end of the furthest point i'd ever been would i get a take.  2 fish in 2 casts at the bottom of a very deep pool at the back end of a bridge, despite their size they gave a good fight, hugging the near wall below me where the rusty metal supports would easily snap my line.

Moving up beyond the bridge i sight for sore eyes, A pool where i had seen fish rise before but always had been rained off before advancing here. It was alive with rises, 40 or so a minute, at first i thought they may be lots of small fish but as i set up my dry fly rod, i noticed a pattern, the rises wouldn't move across each other only up and down and i realised i was looking at only a few fish feeding heavily on the massive hatch of olives. When i say massive you have to think on an Irwell scale, but an olive would float by my legs every second so it was pretty extensive.

I decided to work my way up the pool, targeting the rear most fish first and so on. The fish first took the fly and as i had to much fly line out after trying to predict it's next rise, as they were moving up and down, it was quickly off with the slack being the cause. I knew this so i made sure not to repeat it, left lane next, it took it first cast after a quick change of flies to a more accurate pattern. This time it was landed. Right lane next, this one was a little more tricky, with the amount of flies on the surface it was literally feasting on flies next to mine and it was just a waiting game, cast accurate, wait to see which one it took, cast again. This cat and mouse game hadn't gone unnoticed as i soon drew a small number of watchers in the windows. It took it! After another feisty fight it was landed and the last of the rises was the target.

It was funny seeing how still the pool would go each time i tempted one of these fish as they stopped feeding in their lanes. Luckily my plan to fish through the pack one at a time hadn't spooked any off and the last one was in sight. This, like the one before it, was another tricky one, but after a couple of minutes it was soon on and the fight ensued. It was a good trout, maybe a 1lb 1/2 2lb and it was giving a much harder fight. It eventually found the boulder i had been trying to keep it away from and it swam round it whole circle, snagging on some baby wipes i knew it was do or die. I waded over net outstretched and tried to net it from under the water, it was too quick, it bolted round the rock, so i tried to grab the snag and as i did i felt that the trout had already gotten away.

But that wasn't the last action of the day, further up under some over hanging trees in a pool above the one i was in, i saw another fish rising, and this would be quite quick to tempt despite the foamy surface from the crashing water. The bottom is littered with boulders up here to i tried to keep the fish right under the rod tip with my arm outstretched, that way any it couldn't wrap around any or swim under one, shame that didn't work for the huge one! It was landed and it was the best of the day, with the net-tape measuring 42cm.

In all it turned out to be a good day, despite the difficult start, i guess the nymph life at the moment wasn't strong enough to hold fish feeding under the surface and they were waiting for olive-o-clock.


  1. Spoke to you briefly from the bridge-it's my local stretch n glad u managed to bag a few from upstream. I fished it Tenkara style last year and did ok on the couple of trips I managed to fit in
    Would be interested to know where u fish for the grayling-is it a local day ticket stretch of river ?

    1. yeah was tough downstream, usually good but something was amiss, when did they have the diggers at the bridge i can see the tread marks on the island?

      and things i don't like to publically announce on places like this but i could talk on
      as you never know who looks at the locations you fish for a meal or two